AIR TRAFFIC ON THE ICE

Sunday, November 8, 2009

How much air traffic can there be in Antarctica?  I have been asked that question numerous times in the past six months.  I’ve asked the question myself.

All the aircraft that we are involved with are in Antarctica to support the scientists who work for the National Science Foundation (NSF).  These aircraft also support camps and scientists from other countries, but I’m not sure to what extent.

At this time, based here at McMurdo, we have five different kinds of aircraft:

1)  Bell 212 Helicopter (Huey)

2)  Aerospatiale Helicopter (A-Star)

3)  DHC-6 (Twin Otter)

4)  Bassler (DC-3 refitted with turboprops)

5)  LC-130 (Hercules)

Currently we have 2 Hueys, 2 A-Stars, 1 Twin Otter, 2 Basslers, and 4 Hercs.  I’m pretty sure another helicopter is coming down along with the possibility of four more Otters.  Eventually. 2 more Hercs might end up here.  If all those aircraft were here at the same time we would have 18 aircraft.  Additionally, a couple unmanned airborne vehicles  (UAV’s) will be flying around, running some experiments near the airport.   One of the UAV’s has a sixty-foot wingspan.

All the fixed wing planes based here have the ability to use skis as their landing gear.  The LC-130, being the largest of the locally based aircraft, has the largest skis.  The skis have slots to allow the wheels to drop down through them.  This way, the pilot can choose to land on wheels or skis, depending on the landing surface.

The main gear skis on the LC-130 weigh about 2100 pounds apiece.  The nose gear ski is small and lighter.  The larger skis each cost about $1.3 million with the nose gear going for about $450,000.

The Hercules that come to Antarctica every year are assigned to the New York Air National Guard.  They spend the summer in the northern hemisphere landing on the snow and ice of Greenland.

I hope the facts given above are correct.  People in the know gave them to me, but I didn’t inform them that they would be quoted.

PICT0822Above:  LC-130 Hercules

PICT0818Above:  Nose gear ski (front) and 2 main gear skis for the LC-130

PICT0819Above:  Bassler

PICT0821Above:  Twin Otter           Below:  Huey

PICT0758

 

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